Impact of caloric restriction on health and survival in rhesus monkeys from the NIA study

Nature. 2012 Sep 13;489(7415):318-21. doi: 10.1038/nature11432.


Calorie restriction (CR), a reduction of 10–40% in intake of a nutritious diet, is often reported as the most robust non-genetic mechanism to extend lifespan and healthspan. CR is frequently used as a tool to understand mechanisms behind ageing and age-associated diseases. In addition to and independently of increasing lifespan, CR has been reported to delay or prevent the occurrence of many chronic diseases in a variety of animals. Beneficial effects of CR on outcomes such as immune function, motor coordination and resistance to sarcopenia in rhesus monkeys have recently been reported. We report here that a CR regimen implemented in young and older age rhesus monkeys at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has not improved survival outcomes. Our findings contrast with an ongoing study at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC), which reported improved survival associated with 30% CR initiated in adult rhesus monkeys (7–14 years) and a preliminary report with a small number of CR monkeys. Over the years, both NIA and WNPRC have extensively documented beneficial health effects of CR in these two apparently parallel studies. The implications of the WNPRC findings were important as they extended CR findings beyond the laboratory rodent and to a long-lived primate. Our study suggests a separation between health effects, morbidity and mortality, and similar to what has been shown in rodents, study design, husbandry and diet composition may strongly affect the life-prolonging effect of CR in a long-lived nonhuman primate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Female
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Monkey Diseases / blood
  • National Institute on Aging (U.S.)*
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Survival Rate
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Uncertainty
  • United States


  • Blood Glucose
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol